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   South Africa Trip - 2000/2001

Fever Tree in magical post rainstorm light

January 2001

Hi to all      

We have all returned safely from our thrilling trip to South Africa. To say we had a great time is to understate it completely. It was awesome!

After the grueling 17-hour flight from Atlanta, we picked up a brand new Microbus from Avis in Cape Town and headed off on our adventure. I took some out-of-the way rural farm roads that took us past Bredasdorp and Ouplaas to the town of Malgas where we waited in line for the last remaining human powered ferry in the country. It was quite a treat to watch the whole process of the trekkers latching their chains onto the towing cable and walking the length of the ferry effectively towing their heavy cargo across the river.


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Human Powered Ferry 

at Malgas


From there we got back onto the N2 at Heidelberg and drove to Plett stopping to watch the bungee jumpers and bridge swingers at the Gouritz Bridge. We drove past Mossel Bay, George an the ever stunning Wilderness. 

It was great to arrive in Plett to be with my mom and dad over Christmas. Mom is a strong as ever, and the girls really enjoyed her sense of humor, but dad is not doing so well. We are not sure if he is fully aware of what’s happening around him, since he never lets on. But I think he is, and I think it’s just too much effort for him to contribute to the conversation. It’s pretty sad that the kids didn’t get to meet dad while he was still such a dynamic and assertive man. The constant care that mom has to provide for dad is wearing her down and we are all hoping that Paul can find a suitable home for Dad in East London as the Plett options are minimal.

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Beacon Island Hotel from Glider

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Kristina about to take off

The exchange rate really worked in our favor and we splurged by taking individual glider flights over Plettenberg Bay and Robbeberg. It was amazing to see the town's burgeoning growth from the air, and especially to see the seals off the point of Robbeberg and the large school of dolphin playing in the waves off the beaches just south of Keurbooms. The light was stunning and I ran 8 rolls of film through my trusty Nikons

We did a fair amount of sight seeing around Knysna, taking in a great lunch at the Waterfront and popped into see Andre Fechter at Buffels Baai. Much time was spent at the roadside shopping for African curios to take home to friends. It was also really great to see old friend Stef and Pascal LeRoux and to meet their friends Neil Stephenson (world Ranked surf-ski competitor and great white shark attack survivor) and his girlfriend Lyle. What really great people.

From Plett we drove via the splendid Nature's Valley, magnificent Storms River Bridge where we topped up with world-class Biltong, and took a detour to St Francis bay where I held up the trip by photographing the beautiful thatched homes that Kim and I would like to build for ourselves someday.

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Stef, Pasqui Lyle and Neil

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The Island at Plett from the glider

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Beautiful thatch homes at St Francis

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Glider coming in to land

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St Francis Bay, Cape

Next stop was Paul and Alison and the boys in East London. Alison has a 3rd son on the way – he is going to be named Daniel (just what the world needs is another Danny Steyn!), and if he turns out to be anything like Jason or Morgan, they are going to end up with the three most handsome boys in East London. Jason, in particular, is a really good-looking boy, while Morgan is a real thug who just couldn’t wait to watch Robby Nash’s windsurfing video RIP with his uncle Danny! Paul and Alison are living an idyllic life with their ever-increasing domestic staff, which now tops out at a staggering eight and growing!!!

Despite our best attempts over the years, Paul and I have never managed to go windsurfing together in East London. He swears there is regular wind but I have never seen it, clearly recalling the 1992 South African windsurfing champs when we spent 8 days on Nahoon Beach waiting for the wind to blow. Alas this trip was the same, although Paul did get the opportunity to demonstrate his admirable and newly acquired kitesurfing skills. Someday Paul!

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Yours truly with Jason and Morgan

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The Redman kids

From East London we traveled through bustling Transkei towns of Butterworth, Umtata, Qumbe, and Mt Frere. From there it was all the way along the Natal coast from Port Shepstone to Durban. The Transkei roads were in surprisingly good condition and pretty empty. In Durban we spent 2 days with gracious hosts Jim and Kwezi Redman. I took the girls to se my old homes at Cycad Park and Highgate Place, and impressed them no end with my alma mater, the impressive Howard College overlooking the city. That night we had a braai and got to see Jimmy and Mandy and their great kids Jade, Ryan and Brad and a friend who spent the night having fun with the election posters out on the street! 

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Beautiful Soapstone Carving

From Durban we motored up the North coast via the border post at Golela to Swaziland - for the girls getting foreign countries stamped in their passports is a major highlight. We drove straight up to Mlilwane game Sanctuary where we met Terry and Liz and spent the first night in their beautiful rambling thatch home at the Rest Camp. Terry took us for a late evening climb up the side of the Nyonyane hill to see the historic cave and Bushmen paintings. It was pretty exciting for me, as I had last seen the cave when I was about 7 years old when Howard Kirk was making the film "Jezebel". Unfortunately the paintings have faded over the years and were tough to see in the fading light. For Kristina, who is studying anthropology, it was a pretty big deal.

That night we spent our New Years Eve with Anne, Robin Kate and Rowena dancing the night away at a huge party at Malendelas. Unfortunately Kim was not feeling too good so we ended up leaving early, before the arrival of the Swazi Fire Brigade who were the hit of the show when they proceeded to spray the dance floor with tons of foam. How surreal – a New Years Eve "foam party" in Swaziland, Africa - almost as good as Ibiza!

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The Reilly's

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New Years Eve Celebrations

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Reilly's Rock,  my grandmothers old house

The following day after a day of great game viewing Terry treated us to a night in Reilly's Rock Hilltop Lodge, my grandmother’s old colonial house that has been beautifully renovated and extended. Terry has done a magnificent job on the home, which has stunning views over the Pumalanga plains. Petros, the head game ranger, has moved down to the lower house, and his old house has been incorporated into the luxury accommodation, and this is where the girls spent the night. After a sumptuous 3-course dinner, we slept the night in absolute luxury with the soothing sounds of rain drumming on the old corrugated iron roof.

In my attempt to get some wildlife photography done with the benefit of the early morning sweet light, we headed out in the dark early the next morning only to find the roads had been turned pretty slick by the rain. Ever undaunted I insisted on crossing to the other side of the Usuthu river, only to get the microbus well and truly stuck in the mud, much to the amusement of Kim and Ashley. Terry got to hear about it on the radio after we walked back to the rest camp to summon help from the game guards, and found it difficult to stop chuckling about it. Ah that famous Reilly humor!  

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This years Impala young

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Zebras at play

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Young elephant

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Reclusive Lion Male

The next day provide the highlight of the trip for me personally. On the way down to the Mkhaya park, Terry took us for a sneak side excursion to the Hlane game reserve, where we got to see a pride of lion, leopard and two cheetah in the space of an hour. Despite my many years visiting Swaziland, I had never seen the big cats, so it was pretty special to me. I will never forget the low-pitched throaty growl of the male - it made the earth move and the hair stand up on my neck! 

Later, after having to walk across the railway bridge at Phuza Moya to get to Mkhaya (the river was in flood), Terry took the girls for a game walk and a very close encounter with a rhino mom and her calf. You should have heard how nervous Kim was to see her daughters less than ten feet from these impressive animals. What I especially love about the photo is the game ranger holding out his hand to stop a two ton rhino - it's like standing on the I95 and holding your hand out to stop a Mack truck! A couple of minutes later we had a similar encounter in the LandRover with a herd of elephant and their young calf. And moments later we see a lone buffalo bull – we had seen and been really close to the “Big 5” in just a matter of hours. It was a pretty memorable day.

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Lioness in great shape

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Whoa there buddy!

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Three generations in one shot

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Young white rhino calf

At Hlane we got to see Mickey and his beautiful pregnant wife Kerrie, and had dinner with the entire Reilly family (minus Kate - sorry we missed you) under the giant sausage tree. After a quick game drive in the morning which got us close to a black rhino male and the herd of elephant again, we set off on our trek back south.

We knew it was going to be rough but we had to cover the 1500 miles back to Cape Town in just over a day. We stopped for the night in East London at my brother’s place and headed off early the next morning. We did enjoy one highlight when we were forced to a stop at just shy of the Natures valley Tool Plaza. The road had been besieged with a troop of baboons who proceeded to climb on the vehicles and entertain the stopped cars. We got into Cape Town late and checked into a hotel - our first the entire trip. 

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Beautiful Hout Bay

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Baboons stop the traffic

We spent our last day in Africa visiting Cape Town, first with Willem and Heinrich, who took us to see Nettie, Erina, as well as Joan and Karen Greef and for a drive through the Stellenbosch vineyards, and to see the prestigious Gymnasium where Johann and Heinrich go to school. That afternoon we drove through Cape Town to see the famous beaches of Llandudno, Hout Bay, and Clifton. 

And then, way too quickly, the trip was over – Kim and the girls flew out of South Africa that night and I headed back to Durban for 7 days of business.  

In closing, yes, you were all right on the money – we did try to pack too much into the 10 day trip – we ended up driving from Cape Town to Swaziland and back – almost 6500 kms in 10 days! But the kids needed to meet their extended family. Kristina and Ashley had a great time, but complained of the early morning starts that were needed to roll off the miles. Spending 10 days in a car is also pretty trying at times and there were times we wished we could have had our own space!!!!

For me the entire trip was a real treat. It was great to show the girls my homeland, and explain just why it is that I am so weird! Thanks to all of you who made our trip so special.


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My beautiful girls


The "US Steyns"





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